Sensitive Teeth, Sensitive Molars

- feature of unhealthy teeth

Definition:

Sensitive teeth are teeth that respond more than usual to stimulations such as hot or cold objects, or being tapped or knocked. They are usually an indicator that something is beginning to happen to the tooth and are worth checking out before that “something” becomes a more severe problem.

Possible causes:

  1. Malocclusion is one of the causes of sensitive teeth. With malocclusion pairs of teeth can be contacting when they shouldn't. Your body is likely to say “I don't like this contact” so either tries to slide off that (usually premature) contact or, particularly when you are asleep, tries to grind away the high parts that it feels are causing this unwanted contact. Either way the teeth are being rubbed continually so that the nerves are over stimulated. This overstimulation raises the sensitivity of the nerves so that they start signaling “pain” for lesser stimuli than for healthy teeth.
  2. If teeth have had repeated dentistry due to tooth decay, multiple fillings and perhaps crown work, these are all “insults” to the original natural teeth and can have an unfavorable cumulative effect on the nerves of the teeth. An astute dentist can determine if sensitive teeth have bite-related causes or are related to a history of too much dentistry.
  3. Teeth may have fractures caused by a large filling separating due to age or decay, making teeth sensitive.
  4. A traumatic event in the past (e.g. being hit in the mouth when playing sports) may result in tooth sensitivity later in life.
  5. Being exposed to a very abrasive diet, such as unwashed vegetables or rice, can cause the loss of the protective enamel and subsequent tooth sensitivity.

Explanation of how malocclusion can cause sensitive teeth

What you should do about sensitive teeth: find a dentist who can explain why your teeth are sensitive and recommend a remedy before the sensitivity develops into a more serious problem.

Possible developments of sensitive teeth:

  • Nerves deteriorate and die, nerve roots become infected leading to an abscess which can lead to extreme pain with tooth and bone loss if not treated.
  • Tooth wears down
  • Tooth factures because of wear
  • A fracture beside a large filling can cause a whole cusp to separate when biting on harder foodstuffs.

Other topics that might help you understand the occlusally-related causes of sensitive teeth:

Patients

Are you suffering from sensitive teeth? We may be able to help you find an occlusally aware dentist.

Ask your dentist if they have obtained advanced training in occlusion-focused dental treatment!
Or use the Help Me Find an Occlusally Aware Dentist page.

Video Transcript

Using BiteFX to explain sensitive teeth

A sensitive tooth is often caused because the nerves of that tooth are being over stimulated. It doesn't take much additional stimulation – whether that's hot or cold objects or being touched – for the tooth's nerves to be tipped into firing, sending pain messages to your brain.

Overstimulation can occur if teeth are rubbing together when they shouldn't.

For example if you lack canine guidance, your molars can be rubbing together when you move your jaw to the side.

On the left you see what should be happening if you have good canine guidance and on the right what can happen to your nerves if you have molars rubbing against each other.

Or you might feel an interference, that is a high point where a couple of teeth contact before the rest of your teeth, so you might spend the night grinding away, attempting to remove the high point.

If you are doing all the rubbing or grinding when you are asleep you will not be aware that you are doing it – all you get to experience are the sensitive teeth! Your dentist can observe where this is happening by the wear on your teeth.

Your dentist should also be able to recommend what can be done to ensure things don't get worse.

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